My Relationship with Paris, France

I have a confession to make. It might make me unpopular, and it might even offend you. I’m sorry if it does, but I have to be honest. I don’t love Paris.

So many people seem to have a love affair with Paris. Especially among Americans I know, there is a romanticizing of the city. I understand where it comes from, and I do appreciate the beauty and culture and all that Paris has to offer. I just don’t lust for it the way others seem to. I have a different relationship with Paris.

Our First Date

My first visit to Paris was in 2008. It was my first trip to Europe and I visited London, Paris, and Brussels with my husband. It was a great trip and I enjoyed our time in Paris, for the most part.

We stayed in a lovely hotel, the Hotel Eiffel Seine, which had a great location near the Eiffel Tower and a Metro station. We had an amazing French meal at La Petite Chaise, supposedly the oldest restaurant in Paris.

We did many of the things a first-timer in Paris should do. We visited the Eiffel Tower, including a trip all the way to the top, as well as return trips at night to enjoy the light show.

We marveled at the beauty of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. We enjoyed the view of the Seine from Pont Neuf in softly falling rain – how quaint! Can you hear the accordion music yet?

100_1642
Pont Neuf in Paris, France.

We had multiple café sitting sessions with salads and coffee and desserts. We strolled neighborhoods eating bakery-bought bread, admiring architectural details and design.

100_1682
A cafe in Paris, France.

We didn’t have time to visit the Louvre, but we walked through the park nearby. I window shopped on the Champs-Élysées. We saw the Arc de Triomphe so we could cross that off the list.

100_1724
The Louvre, Paris, France.

But on the way to Montmartre, things got shitty. Literally. We got off at the wrong Metro station and ended up in a neighborhood that didn’t feel welcoming. As we quickly made our way to where we thought we needed to go, feeling a little stressed and nervous and trying not to look too much like lost and vulnerable tourists, we startled a pigeon. As it flew up and over us, it pooped on me. “Enjoy Paris,” he said with his poop that dripped in my hair, on my shoulder, and down my arm.

Fortunately, we found public restrooms nearby where I could clean up as best I could. Later I purchased some heavy-duty detergent and hand washed my coat – the only coat I had on the trip, the coat perfect for that quaint Paris rain – in the hotel sink.

(Looking back on that now, I laugh a bit at how stressful it was to enter a store and buy detergent where nothing was in my native language and I didn’t recognize any brands at all. I had no idea that would be my daily routine in the future!)

Climbing the steep and seemingly endless stairs up to see the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur was already a bit unpleasant for its sheer physical torture, and was made worse by the feeling of being shit on. Still, I did my best to enjoy the views from Montmartre.

100_1701
Looking down after our ascent to Montmartre.
100_1703
The Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur.

Eating in a creperie and admiring the artists at the Place du Tertre helped me recover somewhat, but that first trip to Paris will always be soiled by that pigeon. That poop.

Travel tip! If you are visiting Paris, be sure to check out the Paris Pass options for the most economical ways to see the sights and use city transportation.

A Second Chance

My second visit to Paris was more recently, in 2016. My family and I went along with extended family visiting from the U.S. I was ready to give it another chance. I did have some fond memories of that first visit and hoped to relive the good and forget the shit.

Unfortunately, the trip was overshadowed by advisories warning visitors of possible terrorist attacks. Not on purpose, we just so happened to arrive in Paris on the night of the 2016 UEFA European Championship game in which France was playing Portugal, in their stadium in Paris.

The city, which is huge and always alive, was ALIVE with futbol fanatics. There was definitely a buzz in the air, which was somewhat fun, but also a little unnerving. We joined the crowds riding the Metro and visited Notre Dame, the Arch de Triomphe, and the Champs-Élysées.

IMG_3963
Riding the Paris Metro on the night of the 2016 UEFA European Championship game.

 

Both times in Paris, I resented the crowds and the shady characters that target tourists with cheap trinkets for sale, scams, and pick-pocket opportunities. Yes, that might just mean I need to avoid these locations and go elsewhere in the city, but it still impacts my view of the city.

I dislike being in crowds at high profile tourist destinations, especially while under a high terror alert warning.  After a dinner at Chez Leon, I made sure we were back safely in our hotel -which was kind of gross so I will not recommend it! – before the futbol match started.

IMG_4005
The closest we got to the Eiffel Tower during our 2016 visit to Paris, France.

France lost the championship game that night, so naturally, fans rioted, including a clash with police at the base of the Eiffel Tower that was so severe, the tower was closed to tourists the entire next day for safety reasons. This was unfortunate, since that was the day we set aside to go up!

Instead, we did a little shopping on the Rue de Commerce, had a great lunch at Baagaa, and headed back to Belgium, leaving our extended family behind for an extra night so they could attempt the Eiffel Tower again the next day.

IMG_4266
Shopping on the Rue de Commerce in Paris, France.

Our Future

To be fair, Paris, maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s me. It’s not that I don’t like you, I just haven’t figured you out yet. Maybe our relationships with cities are like our relationships with people. We can’t get along with everyone. We don’t all have things in common. And Paris, I just haven’t figured out what you and I have in common. I don’t know where I fit in within you.

We still don’t know each other very well and it is early in our relationship. I am not going to give up on us yet. I recognize that I need to find the part of you that better speaks to me. The part of you that I can understand and feel comfortable in. I am pretty sure I will visit you again. I hope in that visit that I am able to avoid the predictable tourist destinations and explore the more real you. Maybe the third time will be the charm that we need!

100_1592
In the big city of Paris, I still need to find the places that best speak to me.

P.S.

On a very real and somber note, I feel compelled to say that on our more recent visit to Paris, I was saddened to see with my own eyes the conditions in which migrants/refugees are currently living in Paris. (The Independent has some informative reporting on this here, here, here, here. Other reporting here and here, and more if you choose to look for it.)

The “refugee crisis” (for lack of a better term) in Europe is a very real, very complex issue. I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I do understand that while France and the U.K. are playing politics with how to admit and provide for refugees, the refugees are caught in awful circumstances. Seeing these circumstances firsthand will give you some perspective really quickly. All of a sudden, gallivanting around Paris on a dreamy, Instagrammable holiday no longer seems important, or even appropriate.

Refugees are humans who deserve to have their basic needs met and to be treated with respect and humane decency. Until it appears that Paris, and France at large, is doing a better job of addressing this humanitarian issue, it doesn’t excite me as a place to visit (although I have started looking into volunteer opportunities with groups providing refugee support and assistance in France). Here’s hoping the newly elected Emmanuel Macron will be able to lead the country to some positive changes regarding this matter.

4 thoughts on “My Relationship with Paris, France

  1. Very informative! I’ve never been to Paris but it’s always advertised as a very romantic city. I think it’s good to also know a lot of the good and bad things about Paris so we can make a decision wether we want to go there or not. I probably won’t be visiting for a while due to the frequent terror attacks but hopefully in the near future!
    And I agree, I think the third time will definitely be the charm for you!

    Great post 💕

    Pearl || https://thepearlylife.wordpress.com

    Like

  2. I’m with you, Paris is sort of meh for me. I’ve been two or three times and it was just sort of blah. I’d definitely go back to London or Madrid, but Paris I’m over. This is all said with the exception of the Louvre and some of the historical grave yards. I could spend another 3-4 days there easily just taking photos and wandering around.

    Like

    1. I need to take the time to go in the Louvre.
      I LOVE London (and will eventually get around to posting about it)! Still need to get to Madrid.
      I guess it really is all about personality and personal preference. We’ve passed through a few smaller towns in Paris that have the beautiful architecture and similar charm but were more pleasant for me. That’ll be my next post. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s